Bunnahabhain 1988-2016, 28yo, 46.8% – Single Malts of Scotland

Another sample in the box of Rorschach samples from Speciality Drinks Ltd. was this old Bunnahabhain whisky. Seeing this got my interest peaked since the vintages from 1987 to 1989 are generally quite spectacular for Bunnahabhain. I’ve worked my way through quite a few of those over the last couple of years and I don’t think any of them disappointed.

So, another one, which I tried right after I tried that already very lovely Bruichladdich, just to set the bar even higher!

bunsdl1988v1Sniff:
On the nose it’s soft and creamy with hints of oak and vanilla. Some malt, and hints of iron. Slightly waxy too, with wood pulp, straw and barley. The barley hints are very crisp, like it’s fresh in the field instead of in a warehouse.

Sip:
The palate is smooth again (not surprising after trying a 50+% dram first…). Some oak, vanilla, cream. Even puff pastry, with a bit of a punch from the oak and a hint of black pepper. It gets a bit drier after a few seconds.

Swallow:
The finish shows vanilla again, with cream and lots of rich oak notes. Smooth and long with hints of spices.

Well, this kind of works (understatement). When I first got the hints of vanilla I was afraid this was going to be one of these hugely oak driven drams, that are matured to the brink of indifference. As in, some of these drams taste so much of American Oak that it no longer matters which spirit was put into it, whether it came from Speyside, the Highlands or Islay.

Luckily, that’s not the case here and while there is quite some vanilla, it’s also very balanced with all the other flavors that are there for the taking. An incredibly tasty dram that just sold out at The Whisky Exchange. Bummer.

89/100

Bunnahabhain 1988-2016, 28yo, 46.8%, cask 100229, Single Malts of Scotland.

Thanks to Speciality Drinks Ltd. for sending a sample!

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Jura 21, 44%

Jura is not one of my favorite distilleries. I got hugely turned off of them by some official 10 year old bottling from about a decade ago, and they’ve not been able to sway me back since.

I know they’re released some very old whiskies, which are supposedly incredible  The ones I’ve tasted were good, but not good enough to average out the shit from yonder year.

Also, the independent bottling that are around are either very expensive or heavily peated. Of the latter category there seems to be a lot, but for some reason I am always looking to be pleasantly surprised by a lightly peated or an unpeated one. You know, the style that is most of their core range.

Somehow, I though it was a good idea to buy a sample of this 21 year old a year ago or so (hence I assume it’s the 2016 release). Give it another try.

 

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Image from WhiskyBase

Sniff:
There’s an incredible scent of malt on the nose. Secondly there’s a lot of oak. I’m guessing both sherry and bourbon casks (at the time of writing I didn’t check, but it turns out to be correct). Some baking spices and a bit of a funky scent as well. A very light chili heat.

 

Sip:
The palate is smooth, with a light spicy heat. Again, lots of malted barley. The slightly funky scent translated into a much more funky flavor. Slightly earthy with mushrooms and wet soil. Moldy even. Quite oaky too.

Swallow:
The finish is more oaky than the palate, and has a bit of a dunnage flavor. So, oak, wet soil, mold, mushrooms and cobwebs.

Weird! Well, not really, since this is the profile I expect from Jura, and it’s not something I actively dislike. In a lot of cases I actually quite like it. In this case, however, I don’t think the whisky is rich enough to carry it. It’s a bit of a thin whisky that tastes like it is something incredible, but watered down a bit too much. This surprises me since it’s still bottled at 44%. Not very high, but at least it’s not 40%…

This whisky hasn’t convinced me of the brand, but it’s quite a lot better than the ones that put me off (the old 1o year old and a bottling of Jura Earth, bottled for Feis Ile 2008).

83/100

Jura 21, 2006 release, 44%. No longer available.

 

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Benrinnes 1982-2009, 26yo, 57.4% – The Bottlers

Benrinnes is one of those Diageo distilleries that isn’t bottled as a single malt often. Apart from some Flora & Fauna releases and the occassional Premium Edition, you have to turn to independent bottlers. Even those guys don’t have too many of them. They’re not exactly rare, but you don’t find them on every street corner.

About 11 years ago, when I got more and more into drinking ‘luxury’ whisky, Gordon & MacPhail released a black as coal Benrinnes in their Reserve series. It was a special release for The Netherlands and it sat on the shelf at my local dealer. I had been eye-balling it for quite a while when my wife decided to give the bottle to me.

Back then you could buy a bottle like that for 100 Euros…

Anyway, it was a stellar whisky, and when I got this sample in I had another bit of Benrinnes to drink that had been very, very heavily sherried. Quite dark, but from a refill butt, and a couple of  years younger.

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Image from WhiskyBase

Sniff:
Slightly dusty with spices and dried fruit. In short, sherry. Spiced cake with a bit of mint. Almost Japanese in style. You know, that rich plum wine and huge oak notes. Incredibly rich, but the mint gives a bit of crispness. It cuts it, so to say. Also some pine notes.

Sip:
The palate is incredibly dry and quite sharp. Lots of oak, lots of sherry and some chili heat. Dried fruits and later that mint comes back too. Some red fruits, cherries and cream.

Swallow:
The finish is full and rich. Again, this has everything. Oak, fruits, spices, mint crispness, sherry richness. And again, I find this quite Karuizawa like.

Well, this is bloody awesome. There no such thing as balance, but it’s just incredibly good. Especially if you’re into Japanese whisky. The sherry is massive, and all the derived flavors of (what I’m guessing) European oak, are too. Vast amounts of oak, dried fruits, baking spices. The mint note is incredibly well placed too, otherwise this would have scored much lower.

Of course, a bottle of this stuff has now risen in popularity so it costs you some 500 bucks to get it. Unfortunately, but with this kind of whisky, I can even understand it rising in price and popularity, but 500 bucks is a ridiculous amount of money for a bottle of hooch. Even one as good as this.

91/100

Benrinnes 1982-2009, 26yo, Refill Sherry Butt 3229, 57.4%, The Bottlers. Available for 500 from the WhiskyBase Marketplace

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Caol Ila 1981-2011, 61.7% – Scott’s Selection

1981 Caol Ila. Apart from me being born in that year, and my wife as well, some other fairly great things happened too. One of the things that interest me most is the vast amount of awesome Caol Ila that was distilled then.

Two years later the whisky loch had gotten so big that a lot of distilleries were closed due to whisky not being sold at all. Luckily Caol Ila survived and for a long time, also because of there being so much, 1980s Caol Ila was quite affordable. Compared to many other distillates from that era, it still is.

Scott’s Selection is a bottler that’s been around for a while, but a few years ago there was talk that they closed up shop. I’m not sure what happened, but I’ve seen them at festivals since, so you’d expect them to still be a thing.

Another thing I’ve heard is that, because of a shortage in casks in the 1970s (and early eighties) some distilleries filled their cask at a much higher ABV than the normal 63.5%. Supposedly, Caol Ila was one of them, and this being at 61.7% after thirty years indicates that that is highly likely.

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Image from WhiskyBase

Sniff:
Slightly acidic smoke on the nose, but in a very, very good way. Salty, smooth and old. Shammy leather with old lemon. Some old, weathered oak too.

Sip:
The palate is very, very dry and quite sharp (not surprising at almost 62% ABV (after three decades!). Lots of ‘old’ flavors. Old smoke, old peat and soil. Salty, some moss, and a slightly oily texture.

Swallow:
The finish is long and smooth. That shammy leather again, with oak and brine. A texture of oiliness or cream remains, with a machine like smoke. Maybe a hint of diesel?

This is an interesting dram. It brings the old Port Ellen flavors of lemon and shammy leather, but it also brings the texture and diesel-y smoke of Caol Ila. Those flavors combined might not be everybody’s friend, but it makes me remember why I love Caol Ila so much.

The ABV is incredible, but it does also bring some depth to the whisky as it gives some room to play with water. I didn’t think it was necessary to do so, though. An excellent pick by Scott (and his Selection).

90/100

Caol Ila 1981-2011, 61.7%, Scott’s Selection.

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Bruichladdich 1992-2016, 23yo, 55.4% – Single Malts of Scotland

In a recent ‘sample bomb’ from Speciality Drinks Ltd. was a sample of this Bruichladdich from 1992. Since I went to the Hielander Whisky Festival last month I’ve become quite enamoured by the somewhat older whiskies that independent bottlers are releasing from Bruichladdich.

We tried some very good ones from at least Cadenhead’s and Berry Brothers and Rudd. I think there was another one, but I can’t remember from which bottler. So, when opening the box and unwrapping the tiny jars of whisky, I set to drink this one immediately.

Luckily, there’s no Bruichladdich ófficial bottling ‘cask shenanigans’ or as they call it ‘Additional Cask Enhancement’. Because, let’s be honest, we can rarely call it an enhancement (unless the whisky is utter shite to begin with…).

brusdl1992Sniff:
On the nose there’s a soft scent of malted barley, with some warm and sweetened porridge. Also, oak and dried apple. Some sponge cake, but also some minerals that make it more crisp than expected. Crisp as in the crispness of a windy forest or something.

Sip:
The palate is quite dry, and quite sharp. Some barley and oak hit me first. The wood tastes very fresh, like freshy cut planks. Also the dustiness of grist can be found on the palate. After all that there’s a flavor of custard, with that slightly fatty mouthfeel. Some vanilla and a light spiciness.

Swallow:
The finish is warming with pastry dough, baked rubarb. It’s quite sweet with hints of vanilla. All of this together makes this a bit like a rhubarb crumble, with custard. But for adults, with booze. Also some oak and grain. It’s long and rich.

As you might have guessed, I quite like this whisky. It does exactly what I hoped it would do, albeit in a slightly different way than expected. The whisky is slightly less coastal and dirty than I expected, but not less tasty, which makes me happy.

The surprising finish of rhubarb crumble had me going back for more and as you might imagine, the 3cl sample was gone in no time. My immediate thought was ‘I’ve over spent recently, but I could do a bottle share with it’. Although the idea of a bottle share is to get to try more whiskies, and I just got to try this, so that didn’t make sense either.

Let’s hope it’s still available in a month or two!

89/100

Bruichladdich 1992-2016, 23yo, bourbon hogshead 3839, 55.4%, Speciality Drinks Ltd. Available from The Whisky Exchange for € 150.

Thanks to Speciality Drinks Ltd. for sending a sample!

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Craigduff 1973-2005, 32yo, 53.9%- Signatory

Craigduff is a bit of a weird one. There is no such distillery and calling it a proper ‘brand’ is a stretch of the imagination too.

It’s a peated Speyside whisky from Chivas Brothers, but I find sources stating it was made at Strathisla, as well as Glen Keith. Somehow I was only aware of the second option, but The Whisky Exchange seems pretty sure of themselves in this case.

The interesting bit, or the case for a bottle of this costing more than € 500, is that there have only been five single cask bottlings by Signatory. That’s all there is from this ‘make’.

Luckily, in a recent sample trade I was able to get my hands on one to see whether or not there’s something to this, or that Chivas made the right call to stop producing it!

craigduff1973Sniff:
Some light smoke, with some sourness to it. Or acidity, as that is called in a more culinary world. Slightly ashy with hints of smoked eel. Charcoal, and burnt herbs. Strange scents, but still quite simple.

Sip:
Initially the palate is a tad thin, but it starts to tingle and get more intense with a few seconds of swimming. Some pepper, smoke and ash. Charcoal and oak, with a hint of barley husks. Grass and some light herbs.

Swallow:
The finish is consistent with the palate. Some more focus on the barley and the intense, albeit light smoke flavors are somewhat toned down. Still I get hints of ash and smoke, but a bit more sweet and less herbaceous than on the palate.

So much for me thinking it was consistent towards the finish…

Anyway, this is a weird whisky. The light spirit doesn’t really mingle well with the salty, fishy smoke on the nose. The palate is a bit more balanced, as is the finish.

I think this whisky is more of a curiosity than anything more than that. I’m glad I’ve been able to try it, but I’m also glad I’ve never been tempted by getting this for a bottle share or so.

Having said that, it’s not bad. I still score it 86 points. But it’s nowhere near a € 500 quality level. Also, I never guessed this was from a sherry butt…

Craigduff 1973, 04/04/1973 – 03/11/2005, Sherry Butt 2514, 53.9%. Available for 530 from Best of Whisky

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Tamdhu 25, 43%

Tamdhu currently is trying to get some shelf space in shops by having rereleased their 10 year old a few years ago, and there’s also a new cask strength release that comes in batches, like BenRiach, GlenDronach, Glengoyne and many others.

While that seems to be helping to get the brand into the spotlight every now and then, I don’t think many whisky fanatics have been swayed yet.

A little while ago I got the chance to trade some samples of whisky and this 25 year old bottling from 2004 was part of the deal. That means this was distilled, at the latest, in 1979. So, especially in the current ‘everything is already sold out’ climate, that’s an oldie.

I don’t know much about Tamdhu, apart from it having a rare Saladin Box maltings, which never was a common type of malting system. It’s quite the curiosity, and something I’ve never seen in real life yet.

wt0146758-40_im197253Sniff:
On the nose I’m getting old grain and lazy oak. All in a good way. Quite old fashioned with tropical fruit. Peach, apricot, very nice. Even though it’s just 43%, it’s quite warming and there’s a hint of baking spices coming through as well.

Sip:
The palate is smooth, gentle and light. Slightly thin initially, but it just takes some time to reach every nook and cranny and fill it with flavor. After the initially thin-ness it gets a bit richer and drier. Fruit, spices, very old fashioned sherry influence. Ever so slightly bitter, with hints of apricot.

Swallow:
The finish has a bit more orangy citrus flavors. Quite typical of the style of sherry cask used for this whisky. Quite long and dry.

This is a whisky that would take a few minutes to get used to and to open up. As in, on the first sniff and sip I wasn’t overjoyed with this dram, but by the time I finished it I was quite regretful of it being gone.

The style of sherry, the softness of the oak driven flavors and the light hint of spices on top of the fruit really makes for a complex dram that has to offer a lot, if you’re willing to look for it.

90/100

Tamdhu 25, bottled in 2004, 43%. Available for € 190 at Whisky Antique

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